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The White House held three more meetings on immigration reform yesterday — one with DC-based immigration advocacy groups looking to resuscitate their bill and funding, another with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and then one with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who were entrusted with the responsibility of introducing a bipartisan immigration reform legislation sometime in the last year.
The outcome touted by DC-based advocates is that Obama committed to immigration reform once again. In fact, every time these advocates meet with Obama regarding immigration reform, they come out with a bunch of positive words, only to call for another meeting in a few months to explain their frustrations in the nicest way and smile while the President declares his commitment. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.
Here is a basic summary of what really happened yesterday: Comprehensive Immigration Reform of 2010 died a quiet death even before conception.
President Obama refused to promise comprehensive immigration reform this year. He has flirted with CIR constantly, committing to reform time and again. By now, any intelligent fianceé should realize that it’s like have multiple engagements with the same person that will never end in marriage, let alone consummation.
Yesterday, the President once again failed to take leadership, declaring himself a “partner” and kicking the political football back to Congress, specifically Senators Schumer and Graham, who seem more concerned about getting another Republican co-sponsor for their legislative proposal to make it look bipartisan than actually reforming the system. It’s another story that their proposed reform — to have undocumented immigrants plead guilty to federal misdemeanors, make them pay an additional 5% in payroll taxes, and roll out a National ID card that criminalizes all workers — is not worthy of any consideration.
Perhaps the biggest evidence of political theater was the fact that Obama appeared incredulous to the suggestion that he must stop deportations that break up families. Despite having an immigrant rights record worse than the former President Bush, Obama thinks the planned March 21 March for America and pressure from frustrated grassroots activists is “unfair.” Millions of American families kept apart by archaic immigration laws don’t need a lesson on fairness. Even during the meeting, ICE was busy raiding two restaurants, some offices, and residences — detaining 29 people a few miles away in Baltimore counties because targeting small businesses is somehow supposed to help jumpstart the economy.
Given this charade of “unwavering commitment,” what should be the strategy moving forward? D.C.-based advocates will want to stick to the failure of comprehensive strategy as their only option, much like Obama is sticking to escalating the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan as his only option. In all likelihood, grassroots pressure would lead to some sort of bill making it to the floor debate before the November elections, but do not count on passage. Senator Graham has warned that a health care bill passed using reconciliation will doom any chance of bipartisan work on immigration. Now Democrats can point to the GOP as a hindrance, while doing little to fight for any legislation after the April recess.
This comprehensive “stick to the road to nowhere” strategy has been sticking it to actual immigrants for years now, resulting in more broken families, broken dreams, and a lost generation of undocumented youth. It is high time for a change in strategy. Pro-immigrant advocates must call for the passage of smaller standalone measures such as AgJOBS and the DREAM Act — the only immigration-related measure with a national grassroots movement behind it — that can serve as a down payment to more comprehensive legislation down an alternate road. It is not a cop-out that separates parents from their children; in fact, it is an economic stimulus and an “education equality” package that most immigrant families want and need.
Photo credit: No Borders and Binaries